Derek Ham: Play is about entering the ultimate state of creativity

Derek Ham, PhD, uses VR to expand the way we teach and learn. His piece, “Crayons, Cardboard, and Virtual Reality”, discusses different facets of virtual reality, and how creativity within VR might be harnessed. You can read more about it in the second Ottiya Magazine–to be released spring/summer 2018!

Gabi: As you know, the theme for the second Ottiya Magazine is play! What does play mean to you?

Derek: Play is about entering the ultimate state of creativity. It allows my mind to be both active and free in a way that is untethered from the constraints of the “real world.”

Gabi: What was your favorite way to play as a child?

Derek: I loved playing with Transformers. There was something amazing for me to transform a toy truck into a robot, and then back again.  Beyond the toys, I was completely immersed in the narrative the toy chain (and cartoon) gave. It was about science, technology, and space – all things that fuel what I know as STEM today.

Gabi: What inspired you to get into VR exploration?

Derek: My interest in VR came from my natural interest in spaces and how we represent space. I started my career off in architecture, and it’s amazing that some of the same principles I used back then, I still use when exploring and discussing VR projects.

Gabi: Using your experience in the industry, how do you predict VR will change, 20 years from now? 50 years from now?

Derek: I truly believe we’ll see a time in the future when we will laugh at the time when all the media we consumed were from rectilinear screens. VR will help usher in a completely new way to interact with information and media, one that does not require a user interface that constrained by screens and pixels.

Gabi: You mention computational thinking as a key component to thinking spatially and logically. Besides Scratch, are there other programs you recommend to enhance computational thinking for children?

Derek: I like what Co Spaces is doing right now. They have found a clever way to provide a block-based programming approach to working with VR. Beyond that, I think the key is to structure activities for kids (using almost anything) to allow them to understand systems and build their own using variables, rules, and schemas.

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